No recently elected Vero Beach City Council has faced such a wall of criticism for its authoritarian approach to what is supposed to be democratic government. Choose your issue – commercializing public lands, attempting to violate City Charter, demonizing public dissent, and more, this City Council has sought to give itself supreme authority over existing laws, while trampling traditions and norms.
The only issue currently being pushed by the Council that has the blessing of a majority of City residents and customers is is addressing the disparity between the City’s electric rates and those of FPL. Immediately upon taking office last fall, the current Council addressed that issue by finalizing a sale agreement between Vero Electric and FPL.
But then, seeming to consider their election as a mandate to upend generations of effort protecting our exceptional quality of life, autocrats Harry Howle, Lange Sykes and Val Zudans have made dangerous moves to dismantle the City by selling off other valuable assets and by trampling the City Charter.
Despite a signed contract between the City and FPL, the electric sale is again an issue. Why? Because of four challenges to the Public Service Commission’s approval of rate structures that would result from the sale. These petitions will postpone the closing beyond its originally scheduled October 1 date.
No doubt the current Council majority will attempt to sway the next election, and thus maintain their power, by scaring the public into thinking the electric sale is in danger. In an act of supreme disingenuous fear mongering, Mayor Harry Howle accused Linda Hillman, the one declared candidate for City Council this November, as being against the sale. Howle knows better! His twisted attempt to characterize those who defend the past and future quality of life in Vero Beach as somehow being opposed to the electric sale is a stretch requiring a mastery of pretzel logic.
If you are reading this, you probably have no problem unwinding the pretzel, but for those who see City government existing solely to execute the sale of Vero Electric, they must come to realize that everything they hold dear about living in this community is now at risk.
As we have said before, too much energy has been spent on this one issue over the past years, while so many of our City’s priorities were rushed, unfunded or ignored. Regardless of what others may say or write, rest assured the Indian River Guardian will present all the information that is available on these important issues.
For example, despite what newspaper columnists and others may claim, City voters were never presented with a referendum to approve the sale. One referendum was on whether to continue negotiating with FPL and the other to approve a preliminary contract that ultimately fell apart.
Further, it is an indisputable fact that money from FPL and Indian River Shores residents had a huge impact on the last several municipal elections in Vero Beach. Vice-Mayor Lange Sykes, for example, received 90 percent of his campaign contributions from Shores residents and from FPL. Think about that! Only 10 percent of Sykes’ campaign contributions came from Vero Beach residents and businesses.
What happens in the next election, though, will be determined by voters who value the sanctity of our community above the self-serving interests of people and organizations outside our community.